My dearest boys: Back to school with you!
My dearest boys,
So excited! School is starting today! I mean, not really the first day of school but rather the first day of face-to-face classes. You haven’t been in a classroom since March! This pandemic took the world by storm, disrupting everything. Our ‘normal’ doesn’t look like it used to, everything has been reconfigured, but hopefully we’ll get used to this too. I know that it is comfortable and easy to do classwork on the sofa, but trust me when I say, the classroom will be much more conducive for learning, I think. And, honestly, I know you are not excited for classes to start so much as you are to meet your new friends. What fun it will be to tell them all about your summer, your adventures, and your triumphs! So much and so little has changed.
I look at you three and I can't help but get a knot in my throat: look at how much you have grown and changed over this summer break! So many inches gained! So much knowledge and skills ... Time is flying by. And, most importantly, after all of this forced-fun family time you are finally FINALLY treating each other like friends and not just brothers. Talking and giggling together, plotting the next (mis)adventure. Real three muskateers, in a good way. You’ve all been so good for one another; I know it will be good to be amongst your same-aged peers, though.
I know we’ve seen a few hints of the ‘ugly teenager attitude’ rear its rather ugly and all-encompassing head a handful of times. I know a number of your friends let that same ‘ugly teenager’ roar all too often. I love that you are keeping your good attitude most of the time. It’s okay to get angry, but use that emotion constructively. Don’t hold it inside. I’m here for you, and always have time to listen.
Boys, you are so very lucky. You have at least two instant friends on the school ground, especially now that you are all three in middle school. Regardless of where in the world we are, you will always have two people who will be by your side, no matter what. Not everyone is that lucky. Have compassion for those who don’t have your good fortune, for those who are not as lucky to have a circle of supportive friends. I know it will be hard to walk out on that field or into that classroom without the security and casual acceptance of your brothers and reach out to all of those unknowns. You know what, though? Know that you may be the new kid, but you are not the only one and you definitely have something to offer. Be brave and smile. Welcome. Reach out. One can never have too many friends.
Let's hope someone in each of your classes made the decision to make this first day easier for someone. We all know what it feels like to be the ones in the school field or classroom who know no one else. We all know it can be hard, too, to be the one to approach the new faces on the playground. You can’t know without trying, but that first step can take so much courage. So be receptive when someone reaches out. Again, one can never have too many friends.
In fact, be the example kid in class. Be the one that your classmates go home and tell their mom and dad about at the dinner table because they admire you so. Be the kid that other kids want to be. And be that kid not because you are the smartest or the coolest, and not because you are the fastest or the funniest. Be that kid because you are the kindest. And because you reach out and you include. To be known as someone who is kind is one of the greatest compliments a person can garner.
Three words to remember, my boys. 1. Kindness. 2. Compassion. 3. Bravery. Embrace these qualities, my boys, and be the force that embraces rather than rejects. Use those big hearts of yours, and include. Be watchful for those who are not as compassionate; reach out to those who might be ill-treated. Sadly, on every playground, on every school yard, there will be one or another who pulls others down. Don’t let that happen on your watch. Be brave, and stand up for what you know to be the higher path. Being a good friend is so important, not just now for you in school, but throughout your life.
I fear the day one of your friends or schoolmates offers you drugs or alcohol, but I rely on the skills we have taught you, your self-confidence, and your innate sense of right and wrong to answer in a way that not only keeps you safe from harm, but also helps your friend or schoolmate potentially rethink their behavior. Using drugs not only negatively effects your growing and developing brain, but also your sporting abilities and thought processes. Just say no, my dears, and try to positively influence those that may waiver.
There will be lots of contests at school, and your dad and I don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight A’s. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for soccer at your class break. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or the pill in the back row. You don’t have to have the coolest gadgets or the best handwriting. We just want you to be you, to be proud of who you are, and to help others be all that they can be as well. Build others up rather than pull them down. Even on grumpy days, do your best to think of at least one or two positive things about the people you see; the more positive you can frame your thoughts, the quicker you'll turn your mood around. Thinking positive can become a habit, one that everyone will want to emulate.
We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you all; being ‘best’ doesn’t add to that. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. You are loved. Period.
One more thing: know that what works for our family doesn’t always work for others, and visa versa. I know you wish we embraced phones and screens as much as other families might. Our opinion, though, is that it is ever so much better to connect with the people around you, and not those on the other side of those screens. People matter so much more than your screens ever will. Sure, we have phones, we have computers, and we use them to stay connected and to work, but what really matters is connecting to people in real life, face-to-face.
Learn, sure. Learn and grow and flourish. And reach out. Lessons come from more than just books and the classroom. Lessons can be learned anywhere, and you never know from whom you will gain knowledge. Your teachers? Absolutely a invaluable resource. Your friends? Yes, them too. Those you haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting? You just never know, so reach out and include.
Take advantage of the opportunities offered by attending a smaller school, and getting involved in as many sports and activities as possible. I love that you are open to each experience, and appreciative of the people you meet while doing it. Be open to new experiences. Use your curious natures and enthusiastic energy to be ready for any adventure.
I know you think that I don't know what you are doing when you are 'doing your homework'. I know you think I don't know that you play video games, too, when you claim you are finishing your lab report or writing your long story for English. I also know, judging from your marks in school, that you really are doing your school tasks most of the time, so while still allowing for play, you are doing a decent job of managing the call of the video games. Trust that I will double and triple check on what you are doing, but also that I know you are doing your best to stay on top of the schoolwork. If you need help, I am here for you. But we are past the point where it is my battle any longer; now I am in a support role. I know you’ve got this.
Don’t let it bother you when I am involved in things at school. I don’t get involved in these activities and events to embarrass you; I just love to be involved in school. I love going to your games and cheering for you and for your team. I love knowing who your friends are, being able to put a face to the names you so often mention. I do these things because I love you all and I want the schools you attend to be as positive as possible. I do these things because I believe that when parents are involved in schools, it helps reinforce the importance of a positive education experience for our kids, and contributes to the development of a lifelong love of learning. Thank you for not rolling your eyes when you see me at school.
I love that you share your school assignments with me. I love to hear about what you are learning and what is happening in your classes and amongst your friends. You know that I am not going to blab what you tell me to other parents; we hold each other’s confidences. I feel honored that you share your day with me. I send you off on the bus every morning, entrusting you to various teachers and school officials. It makes me happy that you know how curious I am about your hours away from me. Little by little, I know you are gaining independence and soon enough, you will be moving to a university setting, so I appreciate this time when you are still under our roof, sharing your days with me.
This school year that is about to open? So many adventures await you. Embrace them. I can’t wait to hear about each and every one of them. May you wake up every day, enthused for another day of learning, of being amazing boys, and of making the most of the opportunities you are lucky enough to be given.
I love you all hugely,